Even the brightest, most experienced health coach may not always have the best business know-how. Establishing yourself professionally won’t just depend on your field of expertise or your interpersonal finesse. Rather, understanding the functions of a solo entrepreneurship and the strategies of marketing and recruitment will largely steer your commercial success. Which mistakes do coaches most commonly make in their business practices? Here are seven top contenders.
1. Failing to hone a health coaching niche
This isn’t to say that you have to begin your business with a razor sharp focus. Nonetheless, you probably have a fairly sound idea of what areas you consider strengths and passions versus those you don’t mind filling in but wouldn’t put at the center of your professional identity as a coach. Some of us specialize in weight loss coaching. Some gravitate toward a more fitness-oriented coaching whereas others may feel a call to work with those who are looking to focus more on food, perhaps as a result of food allergies. You might wish to merge your extensive yoga background with holistic lifestyle coaching. Some coaches favor working with older clients and their unique needs, while others might get the most reward in the pregnancy/postpartum, the amateur athlete, the busy executive, or disordered eating recovery niches—just to name a few among many.
All of us would be essentially qualified to work with any one of the above groups/interests. Health coaching is, at its base, a generalist field and requires a comprehensive training curriculum such as Primal Health Coaching offers. That said, there are distinct benefits to focusing your individual brand. You’ll not only be able to target your marketing efforts (and dollars), but it may be easier to forge productive partnerships with other care practitioners or health related organizations. Being seen as an “expert” in a particular area carries a good deal of business cache.
Ask yourself who your ideal clients would be? Who would you most enjoy working with? What do they have in common? There’s likely a theme if not specific characteristics to pinpoint here. If you live in a larger metropolitan area or will be doing most of your coaching virtually, you can afford to narrow your target more than someone who’s interested in live coaching in a small town. Be realistic about the business potential of your chosen niche, and adjust (or expand) your plan accordingly.
2. Neglecting to plan—and to revisit that plan
A health coach isn’t just a health enthusiast. You’re a genuine entrepreneur now, and that means taking your business seriously. You’re here to make money as well as a difference. To that purpose, successful earners plan.
Begin with a business plan. There are countless templates you can compare and use on the web—including those geared specifically toward coaching. The Primal Health Coaching modules and manual will also help you build or fine-tune a plan.
But the power is in the follow-up. Writing down objectives, for example, won’t matter much if you forget about them. Revisit your plan on a monthly basis (at very least quarterly), and compare where you’re at. Create quarterly goals and action steps. Reconcile your numbers and assess any discrepancies between what you’d hoped to accomplish and earn and what you actually achieved and brought in. Quarterly reviews also help you keep track of other goals (e.g. additional training, task outsourcing) and act as reminders to keep your business moving forward.
3. Waiting around for clients to find you
Recruiting clients will always be one of any coach’s biggest responsibilities. Even if you have a steady group working with you currently, there will always be flux. Passivity, like it or not, will get you nowhere in building your clientele and growing your business.
When you aren’t working with clients, your time should be spent increasing your base by making direct contacts, creating content, networking professionally, pursuing strategic partnerships, or participating in visibility-enhancing events.
4. Forgoing or neglecting an online and social media presence
These days it’s pretty much a given that a business has a website and some kind of social media presence. Invest the time yourself or hire a consultant to put together a website you’re proud to send people to. Use it as an opportunity to build your brand establish your style as a coach. Include testimonials and a blog you can develop over time. Offer a sign-up for your newsletter even if you’re only able to send one sporadically right now. That newsletter list can become a key prospect resource.
On social media, build community and inspire engagement by posting frequently with sharable tips, service/product specials, programming announcements and helpful articles (your own or others’). In addition to a health coach, become a media health source for your clients and fans. Staking your claim this way will build your reputation and increase your referrals.
5. Undervaluing your time and services
In running your business, you make countless decisions that will reflect how you value your own expertise and time—and setting your rates is just one (albeit important) part of that.
When setting your rates, keep in mind all of the time and expenses that go into your session. This includes (but isn’t limited to): preparation time, billing time/expense, taxes (including self-employment tax), travel, equipment, other materials and a proportional share of other business related expenses (e.g. the time, materials and staffing costs for marketing, space rental and utilities, tech equipment, etc. as well as your ongoing training/continuing education costs). Profit only comes after all of these. You can see how it doesn’t pay to lowball your pricing.
How we bill our services also can make a difference in our business’ profitability. If we don’t charge for follow-up/between-session check-ins (or if we don’t allow for that within the session pricing), we’ll quickly be giving our time away and leave less for earning activities. The clearer we can be about pricing and extra services/communications, the more we’ll protect our time and profit.
6. Doing it all—alone
This is yet another key dimension of valuing your professional time. If you work for yourself, there will be duties related to your business that have nothing to do with coaching. Some, like writing blog posts about wellness for your website or sharing pertinent health articles on social media, may offer a pleasant break and sound appealing. Other tasks less in line with healthy living, like billing or website building, may be less inspiring. The fact is, the more time you spend on these duties, the less time you’ll be able to spend coaching or attracting clients.
Even if you don’t mind covering all the bases in the beginning of your business, you’ll eventually cross a point at which it’s not beneficial for you to keep playing every role.
Ultimately, you want to devote your time to what you do best—coaching. Enlist help to support you in that endeavor. Thanks to the burgeoning telecommuting culture, there are contractor options for everything from billing services to administrative duties to marketing assistance. Your contracted services (per hour or on retainer) can grow as your business grows.
7. Eschewing professional mentorship, guidance and collegiality
You’ve gone through training programs and attained certifications. You’ve made your business plan and found your first clients. You’re on your way, yes? Indeed, but there’s much more to learn along the way and no reason to forgo guidance while you do it.
Solo entrepreneurs can get tunnel vision pretty quickly—not to mention burnout. With only themselves as active reference, their thinking can get stuck in a cul-de-sac, and even if they continue to read and research, it’s not the same as benefiting from conversations between professionals.
Resist the temptation to be intimated by those who have been in the business longer or to avoid the competition because you think you’ll lose clients in the process. Most professionals understand the advantages and altruism of mutual support. Reach out to those in your field, and compare notes with those who are building their businesses. Look for ways to collaborate for collective benefit. Likewise, seek out established long-timers whom you feel have wisdom to offer and an interest in cultivating the next generation of professionals in the field. Some day you’ll be in a position to offer the same.
8. Letting your own well-being slide while you build your business
Let’s face it: your own health is, in a sense, your calling card. Your fitness, your well-being, your lifestyle are all part of what recommends you to potential and existing clients. It’s more than the look of your physique, however. Most clients want to better not just their bodies but their lives. They’re inspired by a coach who is living vitality each day and is finding ever more creative ways to do so.
Strategically speaking, supporting and expanding yourself in your own health endeavors will inform the way you encourage your clients. Consider yourself the CEO of your business but also an advanced client of it. What experiments in healthy cooking, physical adventure and vibrant living would you like to try and learn from—to then expand or deepen your coaching practice? Call it research if you will, and make it fun.
Finally, from a business standpoint, you are your company’s most valuable asset. Never forget this. If you’re down for the count, business screeches to a halt. If you’re running low, business creeps along and doesn’t live up to what it could be. Take the sustainable route from any standpoint, and take care of yourself. You likely chose to become a health coach because you’re passionate about living well. Don’t forget to do exactly that.
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